America's Romance with the English Garden

Ohio Univ. Jun. 2013. 252p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780821420355. pap. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780821444528. GARDENING
After spending a year reading 19th-century American seed catalogs, Mickey (communication studies, emeritus, Bridgewater State Univ.) explains that America's fascination with English gardening was planted by catalog companies that pervasively showed English gardens as exemplary. Beautiful color reprints of seed catalog images support his text, asserting that catalogs touted English landscaping ideas and trends, espoused the value of exotic plants popular in England, and suggested that lawns, a status symbol in England, were a way to appear modern and middle-class in America. Mickey convincingly demonstrates how catalog companies used advances in color printing, rural postal service, and railroad networks to reach a mass audience, uniformly promote the English ideal, and create demand for their own products. Thoroughly researched and footnoted, the book includes examples from powerful and enduring catalogs such as Burpee's but also from lesser-known and regional seed companies, including some from the burgeoning West.
VERDICT Recommended to armchair and practicing gardeners hungry for gardening history, including those who enjoyed Andrea Wulf's Founding Gardeners.
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